This will be a six-part series highlighting what the Buffalo Sabres' draft plans may be, including an individual look at all four picks the Sabres have in the top 52.
The Buffalo Sabres have some assets in this year's draft with four picks in the first 52 selections. These assets can be used to bulk up the prospect pool or to move up in the draft—more on that in another article.
Considering the predictions already made in this series—center/winger Elias Lindholm at No. 8 and goaltender Zach Fucale at No. 16—the Sabres still need to draft a skilled winger or a three-zone defenseman.
While the second-round talent may not be quite to the level of the first-round pool, plenty of excellent prospects should be available for the Sabres.
The first is Thomas Vannelli, a high schooler who has committed to play for the University of Minnesota next season. He will join a stable of NHL prospects in Minnesota, putting his 6'2", 175-lb frame to work at the college level. Vannelli is known for his presence in all three zones but especially on the offensive end.
Vannelli may be somewhat of a project, but he'll likely end up playing at least two years at Minnesota before considering a jump to the pros. With his upside, motor and skills, a second-round pick on him could be a steal.
Another prospect is Robert Hagg, who played for MODO of the Swedish Elite League last season. While Hagg only registered one point in his 27 games, he was praised for his ability to dictate a rush and to play the point on the power play. He also excels in the defensive zone, with his 6'2" body leading the way.
Hagg is not as flashy as Vannelli or any of the other first-round defensemen, but he projects as a top-four guy on defense and could bolster the Sabres' special teams for years to come.
The last intriguing prospect is a hometown player, Justin Bailey.
Bailey played in the Ontario Hockey League for the Kitchener Rangers last season, scoring an impressive 36 points in 57 games, which was fourth on the team. He is exceptionally athletic but may have to improve his strength—his 6'3", 190-lb frame can benefit from some time in the weight room.
Bailey is another high-ceiling talent who can develop in the OHL for another year or two and then be a welcome addition to Buffalo's top six.
With pick No. 38, the Sabres will likely seek defense, and Vannelli seems to be the perfect option if he's available. With the end of the first round and the beginning of the second being so wide open, it's possible.
The pick: Thomas Vannelli, defenseman, University of Minnesota
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